What is Prolonged Grief Disorder? Symptoms and Treatments
What is Prolonged Grief Disorder? Symptoms and Treatments

Grief. It’s debilitating, heartbreaking, and overwhelmingly challenging. Losing a loved one is never easy. Their absence in your life reminds you constantly of what you’ve lost, and it’s tough to work through. That’s why it’s crucial you have a support system in place to help you.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Much of it depends on your relationship with the one who passed, how they died, and the state of your mental health when it happened. You also have to consider biological and genetic underpinnings that may put you at risk of developing depression or other mental health concerns. 

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Bearing the weight of grief is a real thing. And it’s not easy. With that said, the sorrow you feel in grief typically dissipates around six months. (We know the loss of a loved one profoundly impacts your life for a long time. We’re just referring to the “grieving process.”) But what if it continues or worsens and disrupts your life for months or even years later? 

That could mean you’re suffering from prolonged grief disorder (PGD), and getting help should be in the near future.

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What is Prolonged Grief Disorder?

Prolonged grief disorder is a relatively new diagnosable condition added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) in March of 2022. Also referred to as complicated grief disorder, this draining mental health condition mimics grief symptoms but lasts much longer.

For this reason, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to detect complicated grief disorder in the weeks and months following the loss of a loved one. But as time passes and the grief persists, prolonged grief disorder could be at play. 

Symptoms of prolonged grief disorder, otherwise known as complicated grief disorder, include the following and present six months or more after the loss:

  • denying or becoming defensive about your grief
  • rarely or never leaving home
  • focusing on little else other than the one you lost
  • intense, persistent longing for your loved one who has passed away
  • inability to trust others
  • emotional numbness
  • obsessed with focusing on reminders of your loved one or obsessed with avoiding them
  • anger and bitterness
  • pessimistic views about life
  • lack of attention to grooming and appearance
  • talk of suicide or attempting suicide
  • inability to manage daily routine activities, including work and school

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In no way should prolonged grief disorder be minimized. It is a very real clinical disorder which is why it’s now recognized as a diagnosable condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. According to Psychiatry.org, an estimated 7-10% of adults who’ve experienced loss will experience prolonged grief disorder. 

Getting help from a mental health professional can help you process your grief and work towards living a more fulfilling, less painful life. 

Risk Factors for Developing Complicated Grief Disorder

Recovering from grief is a process, and when that process stalls, you cannot resolve your feelings and spend your everyday life in mourning. This is prolonged grief disorder or complicated grief disorder. Of course, not everyone will experience this clinical disorder, but there are some risk factors you should be aware of.

  • When your loved one’s death was sudden, premature, and unexpected.
  • When you witness your loved one’s death.
  • When you suffer an illness alongside your loved one, they succumb to it, and you live.

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Complicated Grief Disorder

Keeping a close eye on those going through grief when you are experiencing grief yourself is challenging. But knowing what to look for and potential risk factors can help you spot prolonged grief disorder sooner so you can get the help you or a loved one needs as soon as possible. 

Diagnosing Prolonged Grief Disorder

As stated earlier, separating grief from prolonged grief disorder can be difficult. The main symptom when diagnosing PGD is the time that has passed since a loved one passed. 

Based on research, experts agree that when intense grief symptoms last for longer than six months, there is a good chance that prolonged grief exposure has developed. The only real way to receive a diagnosis is to get it from an experienced mental health professional like ours here at BOLD Health

Treatment for Prolonged Grief Disorder (Complicated Grief Disorder)

Getting professional help is always a good idea after a loved one passes away. But when it comes to prolonged grief disorder, it’s practically required. Dealing with unrelenting, debilitating sadness, bitterness, and inner turmoil caused by losing someone isn’t something you or a loved one needs to experience. There is help available. 

Treatment for Prolonged Grief Disorder

Several treatment options are available to help process your feelings and work through your grief. They include the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders
  • Medication management 
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (like our San Diego IOP)
  • Ketamine Treatment

Meeting with an experienced therapist or clinician who specializes in helping you manage your grief is critical. And because prolonged grief disorder is often accompanied by other mental health conditions like depression, PTSD, and substance use disorder, you likely need a team of compassionate, caring professionals who can tailor a treatment plan specifically to you.

That’s just what you get at BOLD Health.

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Get Grief and Depression Treatment in San Diego at BOLD Health

Losing someone you love impacts your life in so many ways. Grieving alone makes it even harder. If you’re looking for grief or depression treatment in San Diego, whether you’re suffering with the trials of grief or prolonged grief disorder, we’re here for you. At BOLD Health, we offer all of the above treatment options and will tailor a therapy plan to meet your needs. 

After genuinely getting to know and understand you and where you are on your grief journey, we’ll ensure you get the proper treatment. You may just need someone to talk to, or perhaps you need a more rigorous and structured treatment plan like the one found in our San Diego IOP. 

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Contact us to learn more about how we can help you feel less alone and walk beside you through your grief, no matter how long it takes. Grieving is natural and necessary, but having a trained professional by your side will help you get through it more smoothly.

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